Thursday, August 25, 2016

Enell Ambassador Race Recap & Review: Baltimore Women's Classic

Note: As an ENELL Racing Ambassador, I receive race entry fees and merchandise, but I genuinely love the brand. All opinions here are my own. 

For the third year in a row, on the last Sunday in June, I ran the Mid-Atlantic's largest women's only race, the Baltimore Women's Classic. [check out 2014 and 2015's recaps!]

While the things I love about this course- the bling, the price, the atmosphere- stayed the same, there were a few differences. First, I was running this race as a part of the Enell Racing Team so I got to wear my sweet Enell tank and my newest favorite Enell, Biscay Bay. Or as I like to call it, the "Green Goddess."

The second thing that was different about this year's race was that I decided to run this race in memory of a former student intern of mine, Amanda Strous. On June 18, a little over a month before she was to be married, Amanda was murdered in her apartment, most likely by her upstairs neighbor. The night before the race, I decided that I wanted to run with Amanda's name on my back. I felt so incredibly helpless (and still do, to be honest) and this felt like something small I could do to honor her and share her name with others.

Flat runner.

The morning of the race, Matthew and I arrived to downtown Baltimore about an hour before the start. We'd pre-purchased parking (thank you, Parking Panda!) and then walked about a half mile to get the to pre-race expo/festival. My dad had already picked up my packet earlier in the week so we just walked around to see the different vendors and what they had for sale. I also might have eaten some watermelon :-)

While waiting near the start line, Matthew and I consulted the course map to see where he would station himself to get some good pictures. We didn't have long to wait and soon enough, the race began and we were off!

My strategy for this race was to reserve as much energy as I could. It was sunny and warm and I tend to get dehydrated and very light headed when I run in the summer.

Waving to Matthew, not saluting. ;-)

The biggest challenge of this course is the monster hill that you hit about a mile in. It's a heck of an incline but the good thing is that after that hill, there really isn't much elevation change throughout the rest of the course.

As you can see from the following pictures, the course was crowded. I'm not sure how many women raced this year but it felt close to 2,000. Given that I'm usually towards the middle-to-back of the pack, it was especially crowded on the parts of the course that narrowed. Sometimes I struggled to find room to slow down and take my walk breaks.

Beginning of the race... elbow to elbow.

End of the race... still elbow to elbow.

Despite the heat and the crowded course, I finished the race in 35:06. As I walked through the finisher's chute, I grabbed my medal, a bottle of water, and a cold towel- they take such good care of runners at this race. Then I walked towards a volunteer handing out roses- he went to grab one rose and accidentally came out with two as they were caught up on each other's stems and leaves. He said, "You get two!" with a big grin. I took both roses and immediately knew why I'd received two- one was for me; the other for Amanda.

After the race, I ran into two friends: Dr. Iannone, my undergrad psych professor, and Tara, an IG friend that actually won my blog's second birthday giveaway. It was awesome to see both of them and catch up. Matthew and I also headed over to a new vendor this year that was giving away free finisher photos. I also might have eaten some more watermelon :-)

Dr. Iannone, me, and Tara. And then me again. :-)

Thanks, Baltimore Photo Social!

All in all, this was another great Baltimore Women's Classic race. I was thankful for my beautiful new Enell for supporting me in style and always keeping the girls in their place. And I am so in love with this green color; it looks so great with my tanks/racer-backs.

I was also thankful for the 3.1 miles of quiet reflection I had during the race when I was able to think about Amanda's life and legacy that she left on this earth. It was a privilege to run every step with her name on my back.

This event has all the elements of a great race: semi-challenging course, ice-cold towels and watermelon at the finish, free photos, awesome bling, and easy race-day logistics. I think this one will be on the calendar for years and years to come!

Have you ever done a race more than once? If so, why? If not, why not?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Accountability Monday: August 22, 2016

Good morning!

Today is a very special day- it's Matthew's birthday! Happy birthday to the best friend, best running partner, and best husband that I could have ever possibly asked for. Enjoy your day, boo! :-)

Thanks for always making me laugh- happy birthday, love!

Ok- so here's last week in a nutshell:

Monday- PT workout
Tuesday- 30 minute run, 2.5 miles, 12:33 pace
Wednesday- PT workout
Thursday- 30 minute run, 2.58 miles, 12:23 pace
Saturday-  7 miles on the trail, 1:33:38, 13:21 pace
Sunday- PT workout and Leslie Sanzone's "Walk Away the Pounds" 60 minute 4 mile walk

This week marked the first "long" run of this marathon training cycle. Technically, it should have been nine miles but since I'm still nursing this inflamed knee, I've cut back all my long runs by at least two miles.

While my knee was a bit cranky after the run, it felt fine the next day and feels ok today. It was a HUGE confidence boost to be able to run seven miles on Saturday- I'm looking forward to longer training runs in the upcoming weeks :-)

Food Find:
This weekend we visited my brother in Rehoboth Beach, DE so we ate out every meal- which is usually very challenging for me because it's harder to eat healthy when you are constantly eating in a restaurant. While I did overindulge a bit, I am very proud of my choice to get the "Light & Fit Breakfast" at Ihop Sunday morning. Little victories, right?

Don't worry, the hashbrowns were Matthew's :-)

+1 from last week.

Lots of travel + out of my cooking routine = weight gain/maintenance

Non-Scale Victory:
I tracked all my food this weekend, including the two appetizers I had late-night at Applebee's- even though it was semi-ugly :-)

Have a great week, friends!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Accountability Monday: August 15, 2016

Good evening, friends! I hope your Monday was simply awesome :-)

Matthew and I have been traveling a TON this month and it's showing in how little I've posted here- I promise I have a race recap coming very, very soon and will be writing more about my fall race schedule/WDW Marathon training in the upcoming weeks.

Monday- PT workout
Tuesday- 2.3 miles in 30 minutes, 12:58 pace
Wednesday- PT workout
Thursday- 2.43 miles in 30 minutes, 12:21 pace
Friday- PT workout
Sunday- 2.25 miles in 32:57, 14:27 pace

Monday- PT workout
Wednesday- PT workout
Saturday- 3 miles in 38:46, 12:54 pace

I had a session with my Physical Therapist last week and he was very pleased with my progress- so much so that he added two more exercises to my routine and told me I didn't need to come back to see him unless the pain was really flaring up again. Knock on wood, the pain has been pretty minimal since I've started doing more strength training and keeping my mileage low. I'm hoping to do a semi-long run this weekend.

Old-school training journal for this cycle.

Food Find:
Ok, so this isn't much of a food find, but while Matthew and I were in Canada this weekend, I had poultine for the first time! It's basically french fries, gravy, beef, and cheese curds. Wow, it was HEAVY. It was good but we definitely didn't eat the whole plate.

When in Canada...

-2.4 over the last two weeks.

Yay! Finally seeing some movement on the scale has been incredibly motivating- I can finally see some of my work paying off.

Non-Scale Victory:
Even though we were traveling this weekend (and it was hotter than the surface of the sun!), I got up early Saturday morning and got in a solid three mile training run. And didn't get lost in Canada! :-)

Minutes per kilometer sounds a hell of a lot faster
than minutes per mile.

Make it an awesome week, friends!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Accountability Monday: August 1, 2016

Hello friends!

It's August- ugh, summer; slow down!

As a quick update, my MRI results came back last week and everything looks great! No torn cartilage or meniscus or anything serious- just swelling in and around my knee which is treatable with anti-inflammatory medication, rest, and physical therapy.

I went to my first PT appointment on Friday and let me tell you, I'm still sore. I'm definitely out of shape; especially when it comes to core and overall muscle strength. Luckily, my PT has a plan for me that includes a return to running this week (yay!) and a focus on strengthening my legs and hips. I showed him my marathon training plan and he feels confident that I should be able to complete the marathon in January.

Friday: PT exercises (single leg squats, ball bridges, leg lifts, etc.)
Sunday: PT exercises at home

Ball bridges for days. Also, I discovered the Prisma app for photos and it makes boring photos look neat :-)

Food Find:
This weekend, while traveling to see my brother perform at Clear Space Theater in Rehoboth, DE, I ate out A LOT. Luckily, I found a bar at Wawa that I have been wanting to try out for a while- a chocolate chip cookie dough Quest bar. Holy. Deliciousness! And only 4 Smart Points! It was so good I ended up buying three boxes when I got home. There are some pretty cool recipes out there that involve different flavors of Quest bars- I'll try some out this week and let you know how they turn out.

-.6 from last week.

After a conversation with my WW leader, I am going to print out my food log from this week and give it to her to see what I'm missing. These past few months of weight gain have been frustrating but I know I'm making healthy decisions- even if the scale isn't a reflection of my effort.

Non-Scale Victory:
On the beach road trip this weekend, my family brought a bunch of "snacks:" iced animal crackers, donut holes, twizzlers, honey roasted peanuts, doritos, and "healthy" muffins.

I didn't have a single thing. I stuck to my pre-planned, low-point snacks. :-)

Have a great first week of August! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Three Years of Blogging

Last week, this blog turned three years old. Three. Freaking. Years!

When I started writing in July 2013, I had no idea how much this little blog would become such a big part of my life.

It's connected me to some of my favorite brands and given me opportunities to represent them. It's allowed me to be invited to exclusive events and VIP programs.

Cigna Blogger Event 2015, Akron Marathon VIP 2014, Enell Ambassador, J&A Racing Ambassador 2015

It's given me a creative outlet that doubles as a way to keep myself accountable.

It's encouraged me to expand my skill set into marketing, management, and cultivating community online.

But what has really made this blog life-altering for me is all of the people it's brought into my life including YOU!

Readers, fellow bloggers, runners I connected with on social media- each and every person I've met through this space on the internet has brought an immeasurable amount of joy into my life.

While this blog started as a way for me to share information about my training experiences, it has evolved into more than that. When I was training for the Dopey Challenge in 2013, this was my space to track my weekly mileage and stay accountable to the training plan. When I broke my foot in 2014, it was my space to vent all of the feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment I felt about being on crutches for seven weeks and not able to run for almost four months. When I made my comeback in the spring of 2015 and completed the Pittsburgh Marathon, it was my space to celebrate and reflect on how I got there. And in all three of those examples (and countless other times), you supported me. You commented, emailed, tweeted messages of love and encouragement that made these experiences better because I never felt alone. Thank you.

So, this third blogiversary is dedicated to you, dear reader/fellow blogger/friend of Sparkly Runner. Thank you for hanging out with me for the last few years- I appreciate it so much more than you know!

PS- If your picture's not here, let's meet up at a race very soon! :-)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Accountability Monday: July 25, 2016

Good morning and happy Monday, friends!

A few quick updates:

- Sparkly Runner turned three on Friday! WHAT?! Yes, I have missed my blog's anniversary once again. We'll celebrate later this week :-)

- Physical Therapy for my knee starts on Tuesday. I'll also get my MRI results back so keep your fingers crossed for good news.

While waiting to get the all-clear from my doctors, I have not been training for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Luckily, it's early enough in training that I should still be able to get a solid 12-14 weeks of training in before the race in January 2017.

I did find a really nice workout designed to help with IT band pain and have done that three times this week with very little pain. I also managed a 40 minute walk with Matthew Thursday night.

Food Find:
This weekend, I made one of Matthew's favorites: Emily Bites's Cream Cheese Stuffed Everything Chicken. It's basically like an everything bagel except it's cream cheese stuffed chicken. So, so good. This picture doesn't do it justice so you'll just have to make it and taste it for yourself :-)

+.8 this week.

Couldn't tell you why. As you know from my last post, I've been struggling with the scale for the last month despite what feels like my best effort. But, I'll just keep plugging along and doing what's good for me. And hopefully the scale will follow.

Non-Scale Victory:
Matthew and I cleaned the kitchen and I put my food scale front and center on the counter so there's no excuse for me to not measure and portion out my food correctly.

Because there wasn't much going on this week, here's a random picture from our honeymoon!

Woohoo! We love the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!

Have a great week, y'all! Stay tuned for a birthday post very soon! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Be Kind to Yourself

Good morning, friends! After two hectic weeks of new student orientation at work and a blissful week's vacation spent in Cape May, NJ, my life finally feels like it's back to "normal." So- back to regular blogging for me, yay!

Y'all, I can't even try to put a positive spin on my weight loss/maintenance journey or marathon training these days- I am struggling. After gaining 4.6 from the wedding and honeymoon, then losing 2.4 the next week, then gaining 1.8, then losing 1.8, then gaining 3... you get the picture; my weight is far from being maintained.

At least it's symmetrical! :-)

Walt Disney World Marathon training literally JUST started two weeks ago and I'm already injured. I visited the orthopedic doctor yesterday for pain in my left knee- she believes it's just overuse and has ordered an MRI and physical therapy. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's IT Band Syndrome or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Either way, I'm hopeful to have a more secure diagnosis after the MRI and some sessions with the PT.

So... yeah. That's where I'm at these days. I've spent a lot of time thinking about where I was (weight-wise and running-wise) a year ago. I had just finished the Pittsburgh Marathon, was in the best shape of my life, and the lowest weight I'd ever been as an adult. All of this last (somewhat stressful) year, I have obsessed over getting back to that "magic Pittsburgh weight" of 140 pounds. Honestly, I've beat myself up for not being able to get back down to that weight/fitness level; constantly berating myself, calling myself fat, stupid, and lazy. Yup, pretty much all the things I encourage other people not to say to themselves.

I've spent so much time fighting to be "who I was" that I think I've forgotten about encouraging the woman that I'm building, i.e., the woman I currently am. Do I weigh more now than last summer? Yes. Are my clothes a little tight? Yes. Am I running/working out less? Yes.

But that's totally OK! And I'm not fat, lazy, or stupid! [imagine me yelling these last statements in an enthusiastic way because that's what's happening right now, lol] I have to say these things out loud or else I succumb to the internal, constant loop that plays negative things in my head on repeat.

In the beginning of the summer, Weight Watchers encouraged us to write down our goals; where we'd like to be at the end of August. I wrote down these three things:

  • Weigh 145 pounds or less
  • Track your food every day
  • Reflect on each week with kindness and respect
Basically, a scale goal, a behavioral goal, and a mental health goal. While I can't control the scale, I can control my behavior and my own thoughts about myself. I have tracked every day (bravo to me!) of this summer and while I'm not near my scale goal yet, I have been making an genuine effort to be kind to myself- even if I'm not "where I was" or "where I want to be."

This whole healthy living thing is hard. I mean, really, really hard. Discipline, commitment, and self-control aren't things that just "happen." And neither does being kind to yourself, at least not for me. My default has always been negative self-talk, and that's a hard habit to overcome.

"You can't hate yourself into a person you'll love." I say this out loud to myself several times a week, usually when the negative thoughts start looping in my brain again. I first heard it in a Weight Watchers meeting room and it has stuck with me for years. It always reminds me to be kind to myself, to respect my own journey, and to cut myself some slack when needed. I'm still tracking, I'm still trying, and I'm still so much healthier than I would have been had I never started this journey. And sticking to it- even when it sucks- makes me proud of myself.

Is it hard for you to be kind to yourself? If so, how might you work towards being kind to yourself? If this is easy for you, share your secrets!